Favorite

That pricey tunnel 

There's been a bit of good stewardship practiced at the Capitol lately, if too late for some really big savings.

I'm referring to the infamous Capitol tunnel. Leading legislators have been anxious to install a security-protected tunnel to traverse the 100 feet between the state Capitol and the state Multi-Agency Complex (Big MAC).

Monday, Gov. Mike Beebe reiterated that he wouldn't release any money for a tunnel. Related work will proceed, however.

Nobody had seen a need for a tunnel since Big MAC opened a couple of decades ago. But now legislative staffers are to be relocated to Big MAC. Legislative leaders didn't think it would do for the staffers, or legislators heading to new committee rooms planned in the building, to have to brave the elements for a 30-yard stroll.

House Speaker Robbie Wills, ringleader of the tunnel posse, made it sound as if the  construction need arose by happenstance.

“The State Library — another executive branch agency — is vacating the 5th floor of Big MAC and moving into rented space in the old Dillard's Building on Capitol Avenue.  This created a 70,000 square foot vacancy in Big Mac, something that hasn't happened in 30 years.”

The rest of that story: The State Library is moving as a direct result of the desire by  House members for more private office spaces. That required a shell game. Legislative staffers are to  be removed from the Capitol to make room for the new private legislative offices. The staffers, to stay close to legislators, will go to Big MAC. How did they get space in Big MAC? By moving the state library and other agencies to a new building. How'd they get a new building? A  Texas developer materialized (wonder how he knew to ask?) with a proposal to transform the derelict Dillard's headquarters building (until then slated to be a homeless shelter) into a state office building.

The new office building will be bought, not rented, by the state when it's completed at the first of next year for $18.5 million. (The developer, who paid $800,000 for the property, took out an initial $11 million construction loan, but it's possible his investment has risen.). The state is going to put another $1.5 million into the building in build-out and then sell bonds to pay off the $20 million cost. The cost, counting interest, will be from $30 to $45 million, depending on the length of the bond issue, 15 to 30 years.

The fix-up of Big MAC for legislative offices will cost $5 million. The cost of fixing up vacated Capitol space for legislative offices isn't known. Speaker Wills insists it will be minimal because recent renovations have left the space in “move-in” condition. We'll see. But I'd bet the speaker lunch at Doe's, if he still goes to such modest eateries between his international junketing stops, that partitions, doors, wiring, furniture and other odds and ends will put the work outside your average DIY budget.

Then there's the tunnel. Wills calls it a $1.8 million tunnel, which it is. But it's a $2.8 million project counting the “security lobby” that also would be required to connect it with Big MAC and the unavoidable street, sidewalk and landscaping work.

Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday that he'll release only enough of a $6 million appropriation for the Big MAC work. No tunnel expenditures. Taxpayers will welcome the savings. They'll be thrilled to learn the state will only be out a conservative $35 million to provide members of the House with private offices.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
    • Mar 30, 2017
  • Don't cry for Robert E. Lee

    Congratulations are in order for Governor Hutchinson. He decided this year to devote the weight of his office to end the state's embarrassing dual holiday for slavery defender Robert E. Lee and civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • City Board discovers LRSD

    An article in Sunday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reminded me of John Belushi in "Animal House" exhorting frat brothers to rally against a dean's effort to put them out of business. "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Brant Collins named Group Travel Manager for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • The two cities of Little Rock

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated the capital city's division again last week.
  • Never his fault

    Unlike his personal hero Vladimir Putin, President Trump can't have his political opponents thrown into prison, shot dead in the street or flung off fourth-floor balconies.
  • Hope for Gray

    The Arkansas Democratic Party recently elected House Minority Leader Michael John Gray (D-Augusta), a Woodruff County farmer, over Denise Garner, a retired oncology nurse practitioner and founder of Feed Communities of Fayetteville, to replace outgoing chair Vince Insalaco of Little Rock.
  • Repeal charade

    The debacle of the repeal-Obamacare movement left the president and the Republican Congress ruminating about the terrible lessons they had learned from the defeat — mainly that neither ever had a health plan or even a clue about how to frame one.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: More on pits

    • "investigator of both sides": If I give you the last word will you shut the…

    • on March 29, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • " ... people are laughing," oh thank you ever so - I do want people…

    • on March 29, 2017
  • Re: More on pits

    • "investigator of both sides": I prize a good dog over a smart-mouthed fool any day…

    • on March 29, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation